Matt Ward FORMER Noosa High captain Victoria Schladetsch has just returned from working as a volunteer in a country where deep spirituality co-exists with a volatile and bloody political landscape. The 19-year-old university student spent three months in Nepal working with NGO World Youth International, thanks to financial assistance from Noosa Rotary.
She helped build a children??s playground at an orphanage in Kathmandu and a water reservoir at a rural primary school.
The experience has given Victoria unforgettable memories of the children of the orphanage, refugees displaced from the Himalayan border by the Maoist rebellion.
??There was something in the faces of these kids that expressed this wisdom, as if they??d been here before, as if they know things we don??t,?? she said.
Victoria said that like other Third World countries, Nepal is losing touch with its traditional culture as it becomes superseded by western values and ways of doing things.
??In the rural village, I was living in a mud-brick house, sleeping on a mattress of wooden slats,?? she said. ??The oven was a ditch in the earth, and I??d never felt so at peace. ??Then, Kathmandu is completely driven by consumerism ?X you??re dragged into shops by Nepalese who are desperate for money. It was heart-breaking.??
The work has given Victoria a strong sense of her future life direction.
Armed with a double degree and an interest in politics in?? stilled by her mother and her German-born father, she now plans to continue working abroad.
She wants to help other countries struggling with the challenge of maintaining cultural tradition amid increasing globalisation.
??As much as I love Australia, I just know that I??m needed elsewhere,?? she said.
As any seasoned traveller would testify, the highs one encounters when away from the safety of home for extended periods are just as numerous as the lows.
Victoria??s only brush with danger occurred on a stopover in Thailand.
??I was wandering down some back streets, past a seedy hotel, when the mother of all ugly dogs latched onto the back of my leg,?? she said.
??Then that afternoon, I had a seafood and papaya salad which wasn??t too good. I woke up later that night vomiting, wondering whether it was food poisoning or rabies!?